In another twist to The Hobbit saga, a stoush has broken out between South Pacific Pictures boss John Barnett and the head of an Auckland agency representing the likes of Anthony Starr, who plays twin brothers Van and Jethro West in Outrageous Fortune.

Graham Dunster of Auckland Actors told the Weekend Herald he was saddened by an insulting email from Mr Barnett reacting to comments he had made in a soundbite on 3 News about the stand-off between actors' unions and Sir Peter Jackson, director of the yet-to-be-made Hobbit films, over contracts.

Mr Dunster says the email reflects tensions in the television and film industry that are far wider than just The Hobbit.

In the email, Mr Barnett accused Mr Dunster of being inept, stupid and irresponsible.

Moreover, Mr Barnett copied his email to TV3's head of news, Mark Jennings, saying the programme had been "diminished by airing untruthful, misleading and quite frankly idiotic opinions.

"I would have expected more sense from you. I won't hold that expectation for the future."

Mr Dunster said on TV the actors' action was long overdue - "if Peter Jackson wants to pay them $1 a day and work them 24 hours a day ... if they agree to it, legally he can do that.

"There's no minimum terms, there's no minimum conditions, there's nothing, there's no legislation that covers them at all."

Mr Barnett wrote to Mr Dunster: "Graham, you know that is an impossible situation.

"In fact, the only way it could happen is if an agent, such as yourself, is so inept and so stupid that they allow their client to work without a contract, or even more stupidly lets them sign a contract that allows the scenario you outlined."

Mr Dunster had been "totally irresponsible" and "the only saving grace I can say is that most people I have spoken to, and these are people who aren't in the industry, thought you had a serious disconnect with reality."

Mr Dunster says the email reflects the lid being lifted on issues which have been bubbling for a long time.

"I think it does indicate the depth of - it's not passion really - it's just the way that the producer cliques seem to regard actors and by default agents."

Mr Barnett said the email was private and would not comment.

In the meantime, NZ Actors' Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand reiterated yesterday the union simply wanted to find a suitable solution. Claims by Jackson that the union was threatening the viability of The Hobbit in New Zealand were entirely within his hands to address, she said.

"We urge him to meet with us as soon as possible to resolve this."

In his own statement, Jackson said The Hobbit was being punished with a boycott which endangered thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income "for no good reason".